Carolina Santo Domingo is looking to thoughtfully make her mark on handbags.
The designer — creator of the cult Staud Bissett bag — is striking out on her own with a line of carefully considered, Italian-made bags, priced under $1,000.
She will launch her namesake line with a spring collection trunk show on Moda Operandi, kicking off March 24.
Santo Domingo has spent the last year flying between Los Angeles and Italy to develop the label, which focuses on silhouette, quality and wearability. “I want to be known for shapes, proportion, volume and hardware,” she said of the label.
Her line avoids gimmicks. Santo Domingo has a longer-term approach. She has zeroed in on quality and subtle details — using these laurels as a jumping-off point for future designs. Santo Domingo feels that edge paint, stitching and minimal hardware are distinct features for today’s market, affording her room to grow and evolve.
“I want to stick to minimal hardware, something that you could wear everyday. Just classic with a modern twist,” said the designer. Santo Domingo has fabricated her two introductory collections in neutral tones, and plans to gradually ramp up color in future outings.
She developed her price point as a market differentiator, with all product remaining under $1,000. As such, Santo Domingo’s line is part of an emerging crowd of midrange accessories brands profiled by WWD last week. “I didn’t want to compete with luxury brands,” she said. “Its impossible to compete with them — they have a huge structure and are obviously very well-known and respected. There are no bags in-between.”
Santo Domingo’s label will launch with three styles for spring, and grow to four for fall. She plans to launch her own e-commerce site this May. Wholesale partners — still being confirmed — will be taken on for the fall season. “I want to build strong relationships with the retailers I work with. Nowadays it’s very easy for products to become oversaturated,” she said.
Designs are more elevated than the $350 cylindrical shape Santo Domingo designed for L.A. upstart Staud in 2015, which sold out of multiple production runs.
Nonetheless her new designs build on the Bissett’s bucket shape, but avoid its rigidness — allowing for greater versatility and comfort. Santo Domingo’s launch assortment for spring includes the cube-shaped carryall called Sirena, priced at $995. There is also a hand-knit raffia piece, Corallina, with resin chain strap and handles, priced at $575. A single artisan spends four hours to hand-crochet the style. All leather pieces come with a removable, adjustable shoulder strap.
One staple style — an inverted-V shape tote called Amphora — took months of refining. “I tried to keep it almost looking like it was held together by one pin the middle, with very little stitching on it,” she said of the bonded leather style, $825.
“Some people with bucket bags don’t like how it pops off body so much — this one sticks to body a little easier. In Colombia everyone wears the Mochilla bags and I noticed all my friends wearing Mochillas, not leather bags. I wanted to offer something in between. It almost looks like a petal when it’s closed.”
For fall, the Amphora comes fabricated in a mini size, as well. Santo Domingo has included an evening clutch for that season.
The label’s branding — with a logo designed by Louis-Marie de Castelbajac — is purposefully open-ended. Her first photo shoot was shot in still-life, without models or styling, to leave their sentiment up to consumer interpretation. Said Santo Domingo: “The shapes are the primary focus.”